As most of the world knows by now, another secret U.S. program has been exposed in the press.
The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces.Now that this no longer secret directive is public knowledge, even our most clueless enemies should be on the alert, with new reason to suspect any Americans they think might be part of such an intelligence gathering effort. This leak will lend credence to rogue regimes such as that of Iran, which seize U.S. citizens and charge them with being spies. The New York Times describes the source of this leak as "defense officials."
some Pentagon officials worry that the expanded role carries risks. The authorized activities could strain relationships with friendly governments like Saudi Arabia or Yemen — which might allow the operations but be loath to acknowledge their cooperation — or incite the anger of hostile nations like Iran and Syria. Many in the military are also concerned that as American troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees.Of course it carries risks. But objecting to policy does not justify exposing secret operations to the press. By doing so, the leakers not only risk damage to the operations, they create even greater danger to the lives of those that they supposedly want to protect.
There are many more details in the Times report, none of which should ever have seen the light of day. As I have argued repeatedly, failure to keep secrets secret is a major problem that severely hampers our intelligence gathering and special operations -- the first line of defense against terrorism. It is long past time to do something about leaks. This leak should be aggressively tracked to its source, and the leaking "officials," whatever their motives, should face harsh criminal punishment. Until this starts to happen, leaks will continue to occur, as officials who lose policy fights decide to undermine their opponents in the press, with reckless disregard for national security.